Russ Kick, editor of The Graphic Canon trilogy, was standing in his local comic book store perusing an adapted version of Franz Kafka's The Trial when inspiration struck. Obviously, Kick, the politically minded editor of the Memory Hole website, was attracted to Kafka. He had also previously assembled You Are Being Lied To, an exhaustive collection of articles debunking a broad slate of media myths for the Disinformation Company. But as he turned the pages, it occurred to him that, in spite of the tradition of classic comics, world literature was still a largely untapped source for serious graphic interpretation.
"I was envisioning the huge, brick-like Norton anthologies of literature," Kick told The Atlantic. "Something as epic and sprawling as that, but with the literature in graphic form."
The Graphic Canon (Seven Stories Press) is nothing if not epic and sprawling. Volume One is 500 pages and collects a broad range of beautifully illustrated works ranging from the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh to the Book of Revelation, a native American folk story, and an erotic interpretation of John Donne's "The Flea." Future editions will include contemporary literature like David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.
Volume One showcases unknown illustrators alongside more established artists such as R. Crumb, the godfather of countercultural cartooning, and Will Eisner, who practically invented the modern superhero genre.
In 2009, Crumb earned rave reviews for his lush, literal, and, when appropriate, lewd interpretation of the Book of Genesis. In that vein, he has also contributed a memorably bawdy excerpt from James Boswell's London Journal to The Graphic Canon.
Russ Kick signs copies of "The Graphic Canon" at The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Thursday, June 14th, 6 p.m.